What Is It?: The rise and fall of Pogchamp

From Issue 6

Camp Carter asks the big questions. (Photo Illustration by staff)

Pogchamp is an emote (think moving emoji) on the streaming platform twitch, and is used to convey elated surprise. Consisting of a face with raised eyebrows and a mouth opening to a shape similar to that of a goldfish. It has worked its way into popular use for those who don’t watch twitch or consider themselves a gamer, and has been spread rapidly through memes. People have also hypothesized that the pog is an acronym that stands for “player of the game”. Pogchamp is the name of the original emote, and features the face of Ryan Guiterrez, also known as his alias Gootecks, reacting to a camera being knocked off position. It went viral and began to be used alongside the phrase pog champ, which arose after a livestream of the classic game Pogs by Guiterrez and Mike Ross, who was also present in the video with the famous face, when Gootecks won the game and became the pogs champion. According to Stream Elements Chat Stat’s Pogchamp was used 813,916,297 times and counting and is one of the most used emotes on the platform since its introduction in January 9, 2016.

Gootecks’ reaction to a camera being bumped created this iconic image.
Camp’s attempt to recreate the pog face. Photo by Tanner Gough

Twitch banned the Pogchamp emote on the 6th of January 2021 because Gootecks made comments denying the legitimacy of Covid-19 and the vaccine and also making comments encouraging violence during the Capitol Riots. Twitch came out with a statement declaring, “We’ve made the decision to remove the PogChamp emote following statements from the face of the emote encouraging further violence after what took place in the Capitol today.  We want the sentiment and use of Pog to live on – its meaning is much bigger than the person depicted or image itself– and it has a big place in Twitch culture. However, we can’t in good conscience continue to enable the use of the image.” 

Controversy once again rose after pogchamp was replaced with the face of a random streamer every 24 hours under Twitch’s new policy. This feature allows more small streamers to get a chance at the spotlight, and the influx of viewers from such a prominent feature would be a powerful economic boost. But, the new feature lends itself to the possibility of harassment for the featured person with viewers that are nostalgic for the old emote, or just simply looking for an excuse to troll someone. Additionally, Twitch has many viewers outside of the US, and questions are raised whether or not a solely US event should affect the viewing experience for everyone else.